Council To Request Hearing On Chipotle Liquor Permit Request

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Athens City Council has requested a hearing to be held with the state regarding a liquor permit requested by Chipotle Mexican Grill on Court Street.

As The Messenger previously reported, there are three D5 liquor permits currently pending approval by the Ohio Department of Liquor Control. Those licenses include Chipotle Mexican Grill, 41 S. Court St.; VP Columbus Restaurant LLC, doing business as Thai Paradise, 102 W. Union St.; and Nos Drovia Inc., doing business as Jerry’s Tavern at 55 N. Court St. There is currently no establishment called Jerry’s Tavern in Athens. The location currently houses Ski’s Teases. The deadline to request a hearing for Jerry’s Tavern has already passed.

On Monday, all members of Council voted in favor of the hearing request regarding Chipotle.

Last week, Councilwoman Michele Papai brought forward concerns about downtown becoming saturated with alcohol establishments. Most liquor permits are issued by the state through a quota system. Athens is currently over quota on some licenses, however no explanation has been given as to why permits are still being approved by the state.

Papai said she contacted the state regarding liquor permits and said she was questioned as to why Athens never requests a hearing for the permits.

“Every community has the ability to decide what is enough for its community and I think that’s what this conversation is about,” Papai said. “I personally think — as a representative of the 3rd Ward — talking to some businesses, talking to other people who traverse in and out of the downtown, that we need to have this conversation. And I personally think we should have a hearing as well after hearing those kinds of things.

“The bottom line, I feel that as an entity, at some point with the welfare of our community at sake here, we need to question this,” she added.

Councilwoman Jennifer Cochran questioned why the city is over quota in regards to the number of liquor permits it houses.

“Are we perceived simply as being the Wild West down here? In my hometown of Jackson, I know that there are young people who are afraid to come to Ohio University to study for higher education because of their perceptions of Athens as a party town and I think it’s a black eye on our community. And, yes, we have reached a saturation point and when there’s a point in the evening when you should not bring your children uptown because of (lack of) public decency… sobriety… good order of the neighborhood… We certainly have reason to ask for a hearing. So, I would support that,” Cochran said.

In addition to the quota system, the mayor can also approve TREX licenses outside of the quota system if he feels that it will promote economic development. Mayor Paul Wiehl has approved several TREX licenses — mainly for eateries such as Fluff, Restaurant Salaam, Zoe Fining Dining and more.

Councilwoman Chris Fahl said she thinks the TREX licenses seem “logical” for restaurants. However, she said it seems that all other liquor permits are automatically rubber stamped by the state. She also questioned why Chipotle would be seeking a liquor license that allowed alcohol sales until 2:30 a.m. when the restaurant stops serving food at 10 p.m. Fahl said she wondered if it was an attempt by the restaurant to become a bar or carryout after the kitchen closes.